Babies are cute, even when they have drool creeping out of the corner of their mouths. But when your baby is coughing and gagging, it is less cute and far more troubling. Drool, which is usually a symptom of teething, can cause coughing and gagging in babies, but it is important to rule out other, more serious causes as well.
Drool, Drool, Everywhere
Drooling usually starts when your baby starts teething, according to Ask Dr. Sears. Suddenly, your baby is extra fussy and you have to carry rags everywhere -- along with an extra shirt or two for the baby -- due to the amount of drool that is coming out of your little one's mouth. And all that drool that is coming out of your baby's mouth is also going the other way -- down her throat, which can cause her to cough and gag.
Drool caused by teething is a relatively innocent cause of coughing and gagging -- although irritating, it won't seriously hurt your baby. If your baby is fussy, wants to chew on things and has a low-grade fever, it is probably her teeth that are causing her to drool, cough and choke. In addition, teething usually starts at around 6 months, although this can vary. Still, newborns and babies younger than 3 months old don't usually teethe, so if your baby is younger than 3 months and is coughing and choking, see your pediatrician immediately.
Other things might be causing your baby to drool, cough and gag as well. Food and small toys may get stuck in a baby's throat. If the item is small enough, your baby might still be able to breathe, but will drool, gag and cough as she tries to expel the object. If your baby isn't breathing, call 911 immediately. If your baby is breathing but is drooling and seems uncomfortable, and she has no symptoms of teething, call your pediatrician immediately. If you just aren't sure what is causing the drooling, coughing and gagging, call your pediatrician immediately anyway. Whatever the cause, you will feel better if you know for sure -- and knowing the cause will help you and your doctor treat your baby.
Stop the Drool
Stopping the cause usually stops the drool, but teething can go on for several months -- which means you may be dealing with drooling, coughing and gagging for a long time to come. If your baby's drooling is caused by teething, try to make her more comfortable by giving her something to chew on. This will also encourage the drool to come out of her mouth rather than down her throat. Teething rings, a cold wet washcloth -- which also works to sop up some of that drool -- and teething biscuits can also soothe your baby and reduce some of the drool causing the coughing and gagging.